Five Years Too Late

January 27, 2009

Pitching 101: Be Prepared

Filed under: Pitching, venture capital — Tags: , — fiveyearstoolate @ 8:28 am
Eric Wiesen

Eric Wiesen

Today’s installment of Pitching 101 was motivated by a great recent presentation I saw. The message this time is – be prepared for each pitch. Two young entrepreneurs had been referred to RRE by one of our portfolio companies and we set up a time for them to come and tell me about the business and what they think it can be. These are guys a couple years out of college who have bootstrapped the business for the first year and who have achieved significant proof points while working on the company part-time and holding down “day jobs”.

Separate from the business itself (which I liked), it was immediately clear that these entrepreneurs were well-prepared for this meeting. They were prepared not only to present the business in a systematic, thoughtful way, but they had clearly looked at RRE’s current and previous investments and were prepared to talk about investment themes that we had already explored and where they might be an intersection with their business and its model. They had gone through the bios of the different investors at our firm to see ways in which we might be a good fit for their company, and had even read this blog and worked some of the ways we’ve indicated we like to be pitched into their presentation.

Is it work to do what these guys did, especially if you are pitching a lot of firms? Absolutely. But think about it the other way – you’d prep for a major sales meeting, partnership meeting or other significant line-of-business presentation. When a company pitches a potential investor, you are typically asking to be one of the two to five (depending on fund size) investments that firm is going to make that quarter, and are asking the VC to get involved with you and your company for a period of several years (and potentially as many as eight or nine years, although few want to admit that hold times can be that long). If you come in with a presentation that shows you were thoughtful and prepared, it’s a huge positive indicator of other things we can expect from you.

If you’re wondering what happened, the company doing the pitching isn’t going to be an RRE investment, for a few reasons. On the one hand, it’s not in a sector that’s of particular interest to us. On the other hand, the company doesn’t need very much money, and have quite a bit of their round already spoken for by angels. It would be a very small investment for RRE even if we took the whole thing.

And in most cases that’s where the story would end, but in this case I’ll be actively referring this company to either firms who specialize in seed rounds or to angel investors I think might be interested, because I want to see these guys succeed and because the level of professionalism and preparation for our meeting lends me confidence that I can recommend them to others.

In sum, take an hour to know the person or people you’re pitching. It will improve your odds of getting to next steps with them, and will generally help you form a relationship with that investor that may be helpful down the road.

5 Comments »

  1. Eric – I’d love an introduction to these guys.

    Josh Kopelman
    First Round Capital

    Comment by Josh Kopelman — January 27, 2009 @ 5:39 pm

  2. Wow. Great to hear Eric. These guys are awesome and I appreciate you taking a look. — Matt

    Comment by Matt Tucker — January 27, 2009 @ 6:36 pm

  3. Once again a great post. Often people forget or don’t even get that they need to prepare. It is probably one of the most useful things that one can do before the meeting, especially with VC.

    Comment by Alex Iskold — January 28, 2009 @ 2:11 am

  4. Great installment Eric. It is encouraging to see young entrepeneurs capturing attention in such a positive way. After reading about their efforts for your meeting, I too want them to succeed!

    Comment by Olivia Palumbo — January 28, 2009 @ 5:44 am

  5. Great advice. Preparing for a meeting in this manner shows a respect for potential partners, as well as a completeness about a company that is difficult to fake.

    Also, when you hear about a company paying attention to details like this, it makes you want to root for them to succeed (ref: Ms. Palumbo’s previous comment). I want them to do well, even though I know nothing more about them than what’s in this post!

    Comment by Travis Leleu — January 28, 2009 @ 12:34 pm


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